Israel’s RT LTA Systems Ltd. said Wednesday it has developed a new, more flexible version of its surveillance and communications balloon systems that will be able to work alongside ground forces in all kinds of terrain.
RT is a designer, developer and manufacturer of aerostats — helium-filled balloons — for use in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications. These balloons are released from a base, generally a trailer, and can be loaded with cameras or communication systems to provide military forces with the backing they need. Like a drone, the aerostat is controlled from the ground, by operators.
The systems are used for defense, homeland security, border security, search and rescue and public safety missions. RT’s balloons have already accumulated more than 1.5 million operational hours worldwide, serving armies and civilian purposes in countries including Israel, Afghanistan, Mexico, Thailand, Africa and Russia, according to the company’s website. The balloons have helped keep tabs on the streets of Jerusalem, have been used for surveillance purposes by the Israeli army on the border with Gaza, and also helped protect Pope Francis during his visit to South America last year.
Unlike balloons that are generally mounted on a trailer that is static, the new, smaller SkyStar 120 micro-tactical aerostat system is mounted on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), allowing forces using it to keep moving and maneuvering.
The SkyStar 120 can operate under “extreme weather conditions” and offers a surveillance range of 1,500 feet, the company said in a statement.
“SkyStar 120 is ideal for forces operating in rough terrain, as it allows maximum flexibility for the operating force,” said Rami Shmueli, RT’s CEO in a statement. “We are unveiling the SkyStar 120 today, after an extensive period of research and development, and after it was presented to the IDF and received great feedback. Compact but robust, and easily transportable, SkyStar 120 is an ideal solution for various of military and security forces worldwide, and is ready for operational use.”
RT was set up in 1996 by Shmueli, a former military intelligence officer who served as the head of the aerostats department in the IDF. The company headquarters and production lines are based in Yavne, Israel, and its American subsidiary company, RT Aerostat Systems, Inc. is located in Texas. RT’s second subsidiary, Aero-T, was established in 2016.
RT will present the SkyStar 120 and its family of aerostats at a cyber and homeland security conference to be held in Tel Aviv next week.